FAIROPE – With more than 300,000 cubic yards of material removed, Fairhope officials hope to have at least 80 percent of the debris left by Hurricane Sally collected by Thanksgiving, city officials said.
Richard Johnson, Fairhope public works director, told the City Council on Oct. 26 that the collection is behind the initial schedule, but is moving forward. The council discussed debris collection before Hurricane Zeta hit the Gulf Coast leaving more material to be picked up.
“We had an aggressive goal of zero to 35 days completing the first pass,” Johnson said. “I think 42 days is probably more realistic and then looking at when do we get to the second pass.”
He said the second pass is expected to take 21 days for a total of 63 days since Hurricane Sally hit the Gulf Coast on Sept. 16. Thanksgiving is 65 days after Sally struck the region. By the end of the second pass, officials hope to have 80 percent of the debris collected.
Johnson said on Oct. 26 that crews have already collected 308,780 cubic yards of vegetation and more than 6,000 cubic yards of construction and demolition debris. In the first 33 days of collection, crews averaged 9,356 cubic yards of debris collected each day.
The total cost for collection in the first 33 days was about $4.4 million. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay 75 percent of the cost with the state of Alabama paying another 12.5 percent.
Johnson said crews are also working to remove more than 5,000 leaning trees and hanging branches.
Officials estimated that crews will have to collect between 500,000 and 600,000 cubic yards of debris. He said much of that amount should be picked up in the first two passes.
“The good news is that the first pass is collecting a greater percentage of that volume,” Johnson said. “So, we expect that we are probably in that 60-plus percent collected at this time, especially if you look at some neighborhoods like Rock Creek and Quail Creek. They’ve been in there for such a long period of time that people have had multiple weekends to clean up their lots, so we’re not expecting a lot of volume in our return trips there. Again, our goal is to have that 80 percent at that Day 60, 65 and this has kind of become an over/under game.”
Another issue during collection is that contractors cutting trees not damaged by the hurricanes have been putting that material out for pickup as well. Johnson said the collection trucks are just for hurricane debris.
“We got real aggressive about communicating with contractors about removing perfectly healthy trees on residential property. That’s the right of the property owner, but under our code of ordinances and our trash ordinance, it specifically says that if you are a providing a contracted service that produces debris, then your contracted service is to include the cost of removing that debris and properly disposing of it,” Johnson said. “Some municipal tickets were issued. Some nice polite letters were sent out, but I think we’ve got the attention of those vendors out there.”